Isaiah 36

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2006 James Melough

36:1.  “Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defended (fortified) cities of Judah, and took them.”


Chapters 36 through 39 form a new section of this book in which are presented the events that culminated in God’s miraculous destruction of the Assyrian host recorded in 2 Kings 19.  Because of Israel’s blatant sin, which included idolatry, the Lord used the Assyrians as His instrument of chastisement to bring His erring people to repentant obedience.


36:2.  “And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army.  And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field.”


Assyria means a step; Rabshakeh, chief cup-bearer or commander; Lachish, walk of a man; Jerusalem lay or set ye double peace; and Hezekiah, strengthened by Jehovah. (Rabshakeh, incidentally, is a title, not a proper name).


The meaning of Assyria a step, would remind us that no man, however great, can take one step without God’s direction or permission; Rabshakeh may have been a great man in Assyria, but he was simply God’s unwitting instrument; Lachish, meaning walk of a man, stands in marked contrast with Jerusalem, the city which God has appointed to be the governmental center of the millennial earth.


Relative to the last sentence of this verse, Jennings in his Studies In Isaiah has written, “It was the coming of a Virgin-born Child who is, and ever will be in Himself, ‘the conduit of the upper pool,’ or, as we have seen, the same Hebrew words with equal correctness may be rendered: ‘The channel (conduit) of blessing (pool) from the Most High (upper).  Surely this must be a bad strategic spot for an enemy to take, notwithstanding the weak faith of the House of David.’”


“... the fuller’s field” was a place where cloth was “fulled,” i.e., cleansed and thickened by a special process in manufacture; and some have seen in the mention of the conduit of the upper pool and the fuller’s field, a symbolic picture of the believer’s standing in Christ, his life being lived in the immediate vicinity of “the pool” i.e., the Scriptures as the means of cleansing and refreshment; the fuller’s field representing that same believer’s place here on earth: his life is to be kept clean, the method of cleansing being obedience to the written Word, see Psalm 119:9, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.”


36:3.  “Then came forth unto him Eliakim, Hilkiah’s son, which was over the house, and Shebna the scribes, and Joah, Asaph’s son, the recorder.”


Eliakim means God will establish; Hilkiah, the portion of Jehovah; Shebna, who built; tarry, I pray; Joah, Jehovah is brother; Asaph, a gatherer.  All of these meanings have a good connotation, indicating that however imperfect these men’s lives may have been, they were believers, and still entertained a measure of reverence for Jehovah.


36:4.  “And Rabshakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?”


The allusion was to Israel’s expectation of receiving help from Egypt, her foolish confidence being duplicated by many professing Christians today, for Egypt represents the world of business and pleasure, and few will deny that all too many believers also foolishly put their trust in that same world, rather than in God; but it is as powerless to aid a believer as was Egypt to assist Israel.


36:5.  “I say, sayest thou, (but they are but vain words) I have counsel and strength for war: now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?”


The NEB translation of this verse reads, “Do you think fine words can take the place of skill and numbers?” and Taylor renders it, “What are Pharaoh’s promises worth?  Mere words won’t substitute for strength.”


36:6.  “Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt: whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him.”


This disparagement of Egypt was justified, for she and Israel together were no match for the powerful Assyrian war machine, nor is the world capable of assisting the believer against the machinations of Satan, the arch enemy of men’s souls.  The Christian’s sure Resource is always God, and God alone.


36:7.  “But if thou say to me, We trust in the Lord our God: is not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar?”


This was a lie.  The altars that Hezekiah had removed were those which foolish Israel had set up in self-will, without God’s authority.


36:8.  “Now therefore give pledges, I pray thee, to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them.”


“... give pledges” means “make a wager with ...” i.e., he invited Hezekiah to enter into armed contest with Assyria, and so confidant was he of Israel’s defeat, that he would even give them two thousand horses, if they could furnish riders for them.  His great mistake - which has been repeated by many another since that day - was that he was leaving Israel’s God out of the equation.


36:9.  “How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master’s servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?”


From his wrong perspective, he pointed out the futility of Hezekiah’s resistance to Assyria’s demands, thinking that Israel had no other help than that of Egypt; but as noted already Israel’s safety was in the hands of her omnipotent God, and not in the hand of Egypt or any other nation on earth.  We would enjoy a fuller measure of peace if we remembered that our times are also in His hand, and that “all things work together for good to those who love God,” Romans 8:28.


36:10.  “And am I now come up without the Lord against this land to destroy it? The Lord said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.”


This was a lie designed to further intimidate the people, for God had given Rabshakeh no such command.


36:11.  “Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and speak not to us in the Jews’ language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall.”


Fearing that the people would be panic-stricken by the Assyrian’s demand, the Jewish leaders asked him to speak to them in his own language, Aramaic, which they also understood.


36:12.  “But Rabshakeh said, Hath my master sent me to thy master and to thee to speak these words? Hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?”


Rabshakeh responded by asking whether the Jewish leaders mistakenly imagined that they alone, and not all the people, were to hear the words of the Assyrian king, his message being that unless the city surrendered it would be besieged until the famine-stricken people would be reduced to eating and drinking their own excrement and urine, the language of course being hyperbolic to dramatize the certainty of their being ultimately compelled by famine to surrender to the besiegers.


36:13.  “Then Rabshakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ language, and said, Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of Assyria.”


The king of Assyria may have been a great man in the eyes of men, but in the sight of God he was similar to all other men in that he needed to be born again in order to be saved from hell and fitted for heaven.


36:14. “Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you.”


Hezekiah was indeed a mere man, and therefore unable to deliver Israel, but Hezekiah’s God was the omnipotent Jehovah Who could and would deliver His people and vindicate His servant.


36:15.  “Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, The Lord will surely deliver us: this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.”


Rabshakeh’s continued diatribe reflects the natural man’s attitude towards God.  He may give token acknowledgement of His existence, and may even go through the ritual of offering Him worship, but he has no real faith in His sovereignty over men’s lives.


36:16.  “Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me: and eat ye every one of his vine, and everyone of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his own cistern:”


36:17.  “Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards.”


This was the command to acknowledge their surrender by bringing out a lavish gift, but few will question that the invader would then plunder them of everything in spite of his implied promise to simply transfer them to another land as fertile as their own.


36:18.  “Beware lest Hezekiah persuade your, saying, the Lord will deliver us.  Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?”


36:19.  “Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad?  where are the gods of Sehparvaim?  and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?”


Rabshakeh failed to take account of the fact that Israel’s God was very different from the so-called gods of the nations.  They were the impotent creations of man’s own hand, but man himself is also a created thing, the product of God’s hand, and it is axiomatic that the creature can never be greater than its creator.  Those so-called gods were weaker than the men who had made them, and who then bowed down to worship them.  Jehovah is the eternally self-existent, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Creator of all things.


36:20.  “Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?”


Clearly Rabshakeh in his fatuity imagined that this God of the Israelites was no different from the gods of the nations he had already conquered.  He was soon to learn otherwise.


36:21.  “But they held their peace, and answered him not a word; for the king’s commandment was, saying, Answer him not.”


Undoubtedly God had endowed Hezekiah with the wisdom not to enter into any discussion with the Assyrians, for He Himself was about to make the enemy aware of His omnipotence by slaying 185,000 of them while they slept, see 37:36.  How much more convincing was this display of His power than anything Israel might have said on His behalf!  His might was far more dramatically demonstrated in those deaths than in anything the Israelites might have said.


36:22.  “Then came Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna, the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.”


These leaders, in whom we might have expected to find greater faith, were obviously as weak and fearful as their fellows; and unfortunately the same timidity is exhibited by all too many of those who take the place of leaders amongst God’s people today.  The “Martin Luthers” have always been rare.

[Isaiah 37]

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     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
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